The Office for National Statistics may sound dull, but I was struck by their latest publication which shows the average life expectancy for everyone across the UK.
The headline figures don’t really tell us much that is original: there is a north south divide, with people living on average 3-4 years longer in Kent than in Kirkcaldy. This much we knew. We are also living longer overall, with men living three years longer and women just one year longer, than when figures were taken in 2003. Again, no real surprise.
But the bit that caught my attention was the list of areas where the change had been the biggest. We are all living longer – but where has the improvement been best? Where is immortality closest?
Honourable mentions must go to the London Boroughs of Haringey, Camden and Southwark, where life expectancy is up by 3.9, 3.7 and 3.4 years. And I suggest you stay away from Orkney, which is the only place in the UK where life expectancy has actually gone down, by almost 5 months. It must be the wind.
But step forward and take a bow Kensington and Chelsea, where life expectancy has gone up a remarkable 4.1 years for men and 4.8 for women. If you are born in the Royal Borough you can now expect to live to the ripe old age of 89 for the ladies and almost 85 for the chaps.
Why is this? Well, wealth must play a part as some of the very richest areas in the land are to be found in K&C, and the richer you are, the healthier you tend to be. But this cannot be the only reason, as shown by the very healthy increases in less salubrious and well off areas like Haringey, Southwark and Camden.
Whisper it gently, but maybe, just maybe, spending on public health is working? Maybe the money ploughed into inner city areas over the last 15 years is paying health dividends? Maybe the five a day campaigns and the Sure Start programmes do something other than fill cynical column inches? Maybe the policy of screening to search for diseases before they can be seen is saving lives? Or could it even be that the health workers who slog away at supporting, advising and intervening are actually making a real difference?
I’m not sure what we should do with this information. We could move en masse to the Royal Borough, or stay where we are and try to influence health policy in our local borough.
So I suppose it’s up to you: get involved or get packing.
Mark Wall is Director of Mark Wall Communications and an Associate at The Campaign Company and can be followed on Twitter @markwallcomms. He writes for TCC on a range of Communications issues. If you want to see what your primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.